persecuted church2014 was a terrible year for persecution of Christians. In Syria, North Korea and Somalia, Christians are routinely imprisoned and killed. In Iraq, 2014 saw the passage of a law requiring Christians to convert or pay an exorbitant tax. The other choice for Iraqi Christians is to flee.

Open Doors has been tracking persecution of Christians around the world for 60 years. They have just released their latest report, and it makes a grim prediction: 2015 may very well be the worst year for Christians since Open Doors began its work. David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors, explains:

Even Christian-majority states are experiencing unprecedented levels of exclusion, discrimination and violence. The 2015 World Watch List reveals that a staggering number of Christians are becoming victims of intolerance and violence because of their faith. They are being forced to be more secretive about their faith.

Curry says the work of Open Doors brings attention to areas of persecution and attempt to alleviate it, but also lets those being persecuted know they are not forgotten.

The report cites the Middle East as one of the most dangerous regions:

Violence against Christians by the Islamic State and other Islamic terrorist groups increased in countries like Iraq and Syria. More than 70 percent of Christians have fled Iraq since 2003, and more than 700,000 Christians have left Syria since the civil war began in 2011. Afghanistan and Pakistan have both increased in persecution.

Kenya, which had been ranked at 43 on the list of 50 worst countries, jumped to 19 in the latest report. Nigeria moved into the top 10 for the first time. India remains a place of grave danger for Christians, who face persecution from both extremist Islamic and Hindu forces.

North Korea has ranked first in Christian persecution for 13 consecutive years. It is estimated that more than half a million Christians reside in prison labor camps, and arbitrary executions are common.

You can view the World Watch List from Open Doors here.

Missionaries of Republicanism: A Religious History of the Mexican-American War

Missionaries of Republicanism: A Religious History of the Mexican-American War

The term "Manifest Destiny" has traditionally been linked to U.S. westward expansion in the nineteenth century, the desire to spread republican government, and racialist theories like Anglo-Saxonism. Yet few people realize the degree to which Manifest Destiny and American republicanism relied on a deeply anti-Catholic civil-religious discourse. John C. Pinheiro traces the rise to prominence of this discourse, beginning in the 1820s and culminating in the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. Pinheiro begins with social reformer and Protestant evangelist Lyman Beecher, who was largely responsible for synthesizing seemingly unrelated strands of religious, patriotic, expansionist, and political sentiment into one universally understood argument about the future of the United States. When the overwhelmingly Protestant United States went to war with Catholic Mexico, this "Beecherite Synthesis" provided Americans with the most important means of defining their own identity, understanding Mexicans, and interpreting the larger meaning of the war. Anti-Catholic rhetoric constituted an integral piece of nearly every major argument for or against the war and was so universally accepted that recruiters, politicians, diplomats, journalists, soldiers, evangelical activists, abolitionists, and pacifists used it. It was also, Pinheiro shows, the primary tool used by American soldiers to interpret Mexico's culture. All this activity in turn reshaped the anti-Catholic movement. Preachers could now use caricatures of Mexicans to illustrate Roman Catholic depravity and nativists could point to Mexico as a warning about what America would be like if dominated by Catholics. Missionaries of Republicanism provides a critical new perspective on Manifest Destiny, American republicanism, anti-Catholicism, and Mexican-American relations in the nineteenth century.

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    Bob Fu recounts in ‘God’s Double Agent’ the story of Christian persecution in China.